Jaguar E-Pace: 2019 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contender

WE LIKE Appealing exterior, sporty handling, superior all-road capability

WE DON’T LIKE Very firm ride, vocal powertrain, cheap plastic parts inside

Jaguar design chief Ian Callum’s team has done a superb job of translating familial forms and graphics onto a compact front-drive architecture. The E-Pace looks muscular and ready to pounce.

Although it offers similar off-road capability to the closely related Range Rover Evoque, the buttoned-down E-Pace is far more fun to drive on twisting tarmac, almost as quick and nimble as a hot hatch. On gravel, it handles like a rally car on stilts. “The E-Pace might be the closest thing to the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, in terms of a fun-to-drive SUV,” Mark Rechtin said.

However, back-road blitzes come with the trade-off of the Jag being very firmly suspended, and the 2.0-liter inline-four isn’t the smoothest, quietest powertrain in the segment.

The interior inspired mixed reviews from judges, however, mainly for materials choices. Although the Meridian audio system drew raves, judges panned the InControl Touch Pro infotainment interface and cheap black plastic around the center stack and steering wheel. “The interior parts bin is starting to look a little dated,” Scott Evans said. “I feel like I’ve seen this all before, and not in a good way.”

The E-Pace suffers in terms of engineering excellence. It’s built on an old, all-steel architecture that traces its origins back to Ford’s ownership of Jaguar. Despite aluminum panels and special thinner steel bodyside stampings, a base model still weighs 155 pounds more than the entry-level version of the larger F-Pace, which is built on JLR’s newer, aluminum-intensive D7a architecture.

Still, Zach Gale noted: “The way it drives is such a pleasure even when you’re not at ten-tenths.”

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